Election 2023 results and analysis: Democrats excel in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is projected to win reelection in Mississippi.

Nov. 7, 2023, was Election Day in at least 37 states, and Americans cast their votes on everything from governorships to local referenda. When the dust settled, it was a solid night for Democrats and their allies: According to ABC News projections, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection in Kentucky, and Ohio voters passed Issue 1 to codify abortion rights in the state constitution. The AP also projected that Democrats won both chambers of the Virginia legislature and an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, there were a few bright spots for Republicans: ABC News projected that Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves beat back a strong challenge from Democrat Brandon Presley.

As results came in, 538 analysts were breaking them down in real time with live updates, analysis and commentary. Read our full live blog below.


Watch: The Ohio abortion ballot measure in a nutshell

Need to get caught up quickly on one of tonight’s highest-stakes elections, Ohio’s Issue 1? I’ve got the perfect video for you:

—Nathaniel Rakich, 538

Abortion is on the ballot in Ohio

Happy off-year Election Day! Tonight, I’m watching the proposed constitutional amendment on Ohio’s statewide ballot, which would codify abortion rights in the state constitution. It’s not only a temperature check on how voters view abortion rights post-Dobbs, but also a data point in a red state where Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is running for reelection in 2024.

A vote approving Issue 1 would, according to the language of the proposed amendment, enshrine the "right to make and carry out one's reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion." Controversially, though, a GOP-led ballot board had final say on the wording that appeared on today’s ballots, making changes that could dampen support for the measure.

Advocates on each side of the ballot measure have accused the other side of being too extreme and out of step with Ohio voters. Proponents point to the six-week abortion ban without exceptions that Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law (and that’s currently on hold), while opponents say that the law would allow people to have abortions at any point in their pregnancy. In reality, the proposed amendment would specify that “abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability,” though not in cases where a physician determines that the abortion “is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

Next year, Brown is running for reelection in one of the key races that could decide the next Senate majority. And you can bet that strategists on both sides of the aisle will be assessing the effectiveness of their abortion messaging on this ballot as they prepare to deploy their resources in 2024.

—Leah Askarinam, 538

Introducing myself

Hello! I’m Jacob Rubashkin and I’m a reporter and analyst for Inside Elections, a non-partisan newsletter in D.C. that puts out news and analysis of House, Senate and gubernatorial elections across the country. You may know us from the race ratings we assign in those contests: think “toss-up” or “lean Republican,” things of that nature. I’m also a 538 contributor and have joined election night live blogs for the past few years. Tonight I’ll be keeping track of the state legislature fights in two states — New Jersey and Mississippi — but I’ll also be watching how successful Republican messaging is in Kentucky and Mississippi. The GOP has leaned into social issues and tying Democratic gubernatorial candidates to Biden in what could be a preview of their strategy in red state Senate races next cycle. But will it work? We’ll see.

—Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections

What today’s elections can tell us about 2024

After the results come in tonight, you can bet that pundits will rush to the airwaves breathlessly explaining why this result or that result is a good omen for Democrats or Republicans in the 2024 election cycle. We recommend that you pump the brakes on such analysis, though. Bear in mind that pretty much every election on the ballot today has some unique circumstance surrounding it:

-Virginia may be a blue state in presidential elections, but Youngkin is a popular governor, and voters there are still comfortable voting Republican down-ballot. As Sabato’s Crystal Ball noted recently, Democratic state-legislative candidates have historically done worse than Democratic presidential nominees in their districts.
-Kentucky and Mississippi are hosting gubernatorial elections, and gubernatorial elections have historically not hewed closely to presidential partisanship either. Instead, candidate quality matters a lot, with candidates often able to carve out a moderate brand for themselves separate from the national party.
-Issue 1 in Ohio could be a good check-in on whether abortion is still a motivating issue for Democrats more than a year removed from the Dobbs decision, but as Leah wrote last week, the unique circumstances and messaging of that vote could make it a poor litmus test.
-The one thing I am fairly confident in as an indicator for 2024 is special-election results (or, more accurately, which party does better than its partisan baseline in the eight special elections today). Those have historically been predictive of the House popular vote in the subsequent general election.
-That said, you can probably pay a little more attention to the punditry if all of these races go the same way. For example, if Democrats win or do better than expected in all of these states, that’s probably the sign of a national groundswell of support rather than unique factors in each race.

But just remember that the national mood can still change in the next year. Republicans did quite well in the 2021 off-year elections, but the Dobbs decision helped improve the political environment for Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterms. Just because the wind is at one party’s backs today doesn’t mean it still will be on Nov. 5, 2024.

—Nathaniel Rakich, 538